Translating Documents into Foreign Languages a Waste?

Mr. Pickles may have gotten himself into a pickle with his comments! British Conservative politician and Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Mr. Pickles asserted that the translation of certain documents into other languages not only is a drain on the budget but is also a deterrent for immigrants to learn English. Here’s the full story from The Telegraph, March 16, 2013:

The Communities and Local Government secretary said translating documents was a “very expensive and poor use of taxpayers’ money”.

Mr Pickles told MPs in the House of Commons he was concerned that the costs were being driven by human rights and equality laws and actually served to divide communities rather than unite them.

Independent figures show that local authorities spend nearly £20million a year translating documents into a variety of different languages.

Mr Pickles issued a Written Ministerial Statement urging councils to stop spending the money on the translation services. The statement replaced existing guidance on translation services, issued by former Communities secretary Hazel Blears in December 2007.

Mr Pickles said: “Some local authorities translate a range of documents and other materials into languages spoken by their residents, and provide interpretation services.

“Whilst there may be rare occasions in which this is entirely necessary – for instance in emergency situations.

“I am concerned that such services are in many cases being provided unnecessarily because of a misinterpretation of equality or human rights legislation.”

In one case last year Crawley Borough Council spent more than £600 translating a 12-page glossy 12-page quarterly ‘Homelink lifestyle magazine’ into Urdu after a single resident complained they couldn’t read English.

In another, officials pointed out that Southwark Council offered full and free interpretation and translation of services into over 70 languages.

Mr Pickles said that some of these translation services had an “unintentional, adverse impact on integration by reducing the incentive for some migrant communities to learn English and are wasteful where many members of these communities already speak or understand English”.

Mr Pickles added while councils had to comply with the duties set out in equalities laws, this was not “a legal duty to translate documents into foreign languages”.

He said that a ban on automatically translating documents into foreign languages would also encourage migrants to learn English when they moved to the UK.

He added: “Stopping the automatic use of translation and interpretation services into foreign languages will provide further incentive for all migrant communities to learn English, which is the basis for an individual’s ability to progress in British society.

“It will promote cohesion and better community relations. And it will help councils make sensible savings, at a time when every bit of the public sector needs to do its bit to pay off the deficit left by the last administration.”

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